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Arnoux’s beaked whale Berardius arnuxii   

The biology, population and distribution of Arnoux’s beaked whale is poorly understood.  It seems to occur near deep escarpments and seamounts of the southern oceans.  It is known mostly from specimens and photographs of beached or stranded animals ranging from South Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetlands, South Africa, and Antarctic Peninsula.

They are presumed to migrate seasonally away from the edge of the ice in winter for breeding, although some have been known to become trapped by shifting ice around Antarctica, and may winter or die there.

Arnoux's beaked whales reach a known maximum size of 9.75 m. Females are probably larger than males, as is generally true in beaked whales, and a large adult can weigh as much as 8,200kg (9 tons). Length at birth is unknown, but is probably around 4 m.  They are highly social animals; most groups number between 6 and 10 individuals, but some pods of 80 whales or more have been seen.

It is thought they feed mostly on squid and bottom-dwelling fish diving to at least 3,300 ft (1,000 m) with a dive lasting from 20 minutes to over an hour.
Arnoux's beaked whales are slate grey to light brown with a small head region that is generally lighter than the rest of the body.  They have a moderately steep bulbous forehead with a long tube-like beak, small rounded flippers and short slightly falcate dorsal fin.  The body is often heavily scarred and scratched, and the underside tends to be lighter, and covered with white blotches.

 

There has not been any substantial commercial hunting for this species, but some have been taken for scientific study.  Arnoux's beaked whale became known to science as a result of a specimen that stranded in Akoroa Harbor, Bank Peninsula, New Zealand, and was presented to the Museum of Paris in 1846 by one M. Arnoux, surgeon to the French corvette Rhin, commanded by Captain Bérard.

The Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctic Peninsula
Oct 18 - Nov 6 2017 (as naturalist)

Antarctica - Off The Beaten Track
Nov 6 - Nov 18 2017 (as artist in residence)

Arnoux's Beaked Whale (A4 sketchbook spread)Arnoux's Beaked Whale (A4 sketchbook spread)The two trips were early in the southern ocean summer season. That meant whale sightings were infrequent as many were still migrating south, so when they did surface the excitement was even greater.  Especially when in Willhelmina Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula a pod of about four or five Arnoux’s beaked whales emerged very close to the small boat I was in.

Because of the dorsal fin shape and blunt rounded front end my first thought was sperm whale!  But a moment later the scarring over the dorsal surface, colour of the animals and sudden sight of a beak confirmed their identity  

 

 

 

My only ever other contact with this magnificent creature was a specimen that washed up on Bird Island in 1976 after a fierce storm and high tide stranded a whale carcass at the back of Jordan Cove.

One of the chaps reported one evening that he’d seen the huge creature when walking back from the far end of the island. There was still light enough for the rest of us to get across to Jordan Cove and take a look for ourselves and get some photographs.  That evening it was decided that we’d confirm its identity and do some science in daylight the next day - we’d go down again with a tape to take measurements, we'd take pliers and a saw plus specimen jars to get teeth and collect tissue, etc.

That night, as we sat in the hut talking excitedly about our extraordinary find and how important to science our data would be, the storm rose again.  It was even more fierce that it had been a couple of evenings earlier.  The next day, laden with our scientific equipment, the four of us headed over the island to Johnson Cove.  Our prize specimen had gone!  There was nothing except oily stains on the storm tide line high up on the beach and a scattering of stinking fragments of fleshy detritus.  

The tail end of the storm that had delivered an Arnoux’s beaked whale to our remote sub-Antarctic island had overnight swept it away again.Breeding colony of gentoo penguins, Antarctic PeninsulaBreeding colony of gentoo penguins, Antarctic Peninsula